Prairie Housing: Memphis, Tennesse
A black and white photo of a sandy foreground with a grassy hill in the distance. On top of the hill theres a wooden fence that goes horizontally across the image. There are the tops of houses visible across the fence.
"We moved from midtown Manhattan in New York City to a small town 50 miles west of Chicago in late 1969. It was a town of old neighborhoods and a minimum of new housing construction. During 1971 and 1972, I went into Chicago to the Institute of Design to ear a Master's Degree in photography in order to teach college. Those commutes gave me a glimpse of the movement westward of the wester Chicago suburbs.
In 1973, we moved eastward to Wheaton, about 35 miles west of Chicago where I began teaching art at Wheaton College. That area was undergoing a good deal of new housing construction. I was aware of the photographers photographing what became knows as "The New Topographies" and acquired Robert Adams' book The New West in 1974.
I looked at the changes happening to the land around me. It was flat, rural farmland, rich prairie land, and it was disappearing. As winter faded in 1975, and then all of 1976, I photographed what was happening. All around me was construction activity, most of it cold, anonymous, cheap and boring. But the houses sold rapidly as the appetite for them seemed to be endless.
These buildings sometimes had a wall with no windows, or one small window. Many houses were built closely together, making a sense of privacy elusive. People moved into a house while there was no grass, just tire-tracked terrain broken up by discarded building materials.
By 1976, some of these tracts had grass in their yards but still looked monotonously similar. There were no mountains, or even foothills, like in Robert Adams' landscape, just flat land. Within another 10 years, concrete shopping centers would fill many acres of land between the housing tracts and all sense of what was would be gone from sight." - Douglas Gilbert